SAP Refocuses on "Fun"

LAS VEGAS -- Oftentimes when people talk about CRM, the emphasis is on the "C," for customer -- meaning the end customer. While consumers clearly drive CRM, it's also important to remember about the "other" customers, the businesses and organizations buying CRM solutions in order to deliver the best service possible to their users. Working closely with those nonconsumer entities is what Bob Stutz, senior vice president and general manager for SAP's CRM global strategy and product development, called "customer co-innovation" during his keynote speech at the SAP CRM 2008 Conference at Caesars Place here yesterday.

Recalling his arrival at SAP, in June 2005, and the process of speaking with customers and analyzing the company's then-current CRM products, Stutz told attendees that he decided at the time that SAP was going to have to do a better job of directly including its customers in the effort to create new solutions and offerings. To that end, Stutz told the crowd, SAP chose 180 of its customers to include in the process of building SAP CRM 2007. "We realized we didn't need 100 Ph.D.'s to make one single piece of functionality," Stutz said. "This product is not 'by SAP,' but 'by SAP with customers.' Without customers, this new offering would not be possible."

The beginning of the company's road to SAP CRM 2007 was bleak, Stutz said. Customers explained to him that SAP's CRM solutions were not usable -- they were "too complex." Marketers told Stutz that they wanted "to go back to using pen and paper." "We needed to build something the customer liked to use," he explained. "So we put together a plan to transform SAP CRM and make it different and fun. If you make software fun to use, people will use it."

Consequently, a major point of emphasis for SAP was to change the user interface (UI) in order to enable users to easily personalize their settings. Mike de la Cruz, SAP's senior vice president of CRM applications solution management, explained that when speaking with customers in preparations for SAP CRM 2007, they told him that they wanted their CRM solution to function like the iGoogle home page. SAP CRM 2007's dashboard, as a result, resembles the personalization functionality iGoogle offers. As de la Cruz demonstrated for the crowd how to navigate a SAP CRM 2007 dashboard, he showed how different functions can be rearranged on the page, and different background colors and layouts can be personalized with a single click.

However, SAP CRM 2007 is not just about changing colors and moving around boxes, according to de la Cruz. "[SAP CRM 2007] is like iGoogle and Excel -- but better," he said. "We needed to offer an enterprise application to solve business problems. We've combined the power of SAP with the fun and intuitiveness of iGoogle and Excel."

This power can also be accessed via any Web-enabled mobile device, according to de la Cruz. With an iPhone in hand, he displayed for the audience a view of the SAP CRM 2007 solution that has the same look and feel as the typical iPhone menu. But it's not just iPhones -- Stutz said that SAP CRM 2007 can be accessed using any Web-enabled phone or smartphone. "We should not be tied to an office," Stutz said. "We don't need a computer anymore."

However, new customers may have to pay more than they ever would have in order to gain access to the new functionality promised in SAP CRM 2007. According to R. "Ray" Wang, principal analyst at Forrester Research, SAP is eliminating the 17 percent Basic Support offering and replacing it with a new Enterprise Support offering at 22 percent of net license price per year. While Wang says the Enterprise Support offering has its advantages, SAP will have to deliver -- and deliver fast, especially in today's turbulent economy. "Enterprise Support expands on services in the previous Premium Support offering with some value-added enhancements, such as 24/7 dedicated coverage," he writes. "Given existing customer angst over the rising fees and lack of value in most application vendor support and maintenance programs, SAP's Active Global Support (AGS) must show how its new support offering delivers more value than its competitors."

Possibly in a move to give customers what they're paying for, SAP is not ending its tightly intertwined customer involvement with the SAP CRM 2007 solution. De la Cruz challenged conference attendees to help brainstorm:

  • how to extend CRM to broaden a company's competitive footprint;
  • how to provide more insight to users as part of user education; and
  • determining how to make user offerings "more fun."

SAP also announced the launch of a virtual customer community at bpx.sap.com, where users can post video blogs, moderate blogs, and enter any other feedback relating to SAP products -- prompting Stutz to declare it an "unparalleled level of co-innovation."

With this new offering, and reemphasis on truly taking customer feedback to heart in future solutions, Stutz is looking to avoid hearing stories like the one he told at the conclusion of his keynote address: "A customer told me [before developing SAP CRM 2007] that having a SAP CRM solution was like having a dump truck full of Legos dropped off in your driveway. Then we had to hire consultants to put the blocks together."

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